Today, 1 Apr 2012, is the 85th anniversary of the martyrdom of Blessed (Jose) Alacleto Gonzalez Flores. At the time of his death in Mexico he was a father of two young children, a lawyer and a leader in the resistance against the anti-clerical, anti-Catholic regime of President Olutarco Elias Calles. Material things don’t bring eternal salvation, spiritual things do, and Alacleto was willing to sacrifice everything that others might not be deprived of the spiritual means to salvation found in the Catholic Church.
Blessed (Jose) Anacleto Gonzalez Flores was born in 1888 into an impoverished family of the Jalisco region of Mexico. Since he was quite an intelligent boy, he was sent to the seminary. However despite excelling at his studies Anacleto realised that the vocation of priesthood was not where God was calling him. In 1922 he completed his studies to become a lawyer and married Maria Concepcion Guerrero. Anacleto’s faith was not just for Sunday, he was an active participant in the life of the Church – attending daily Mass, youth group, teaching catechism, visiting prisoners, writing articles to spread the faith and engaging in works of charity.
From the time of the closure of the Churches in 1914, Anacleto took part in as many kinds of non-violent resistance that he could find. With his leadership ability he began new organisations like the Popular Union, started a newspaper and organised a Congress and Conference. During all this activity designed to encourage his fellow Catholics not to give and to seek peaceful methods of change, two children were born to Anacleto and Maria.
The climate of persecution did not improve and in 1926 four members of Anacleto’s youth group were murdered. This atrocity signalled that peaceful resistance was no longer effective, so the Cristero War began. Continuing to use the pen rather than the sword, Anacleto defended Catholics through pamphlets, speeches and encouraging people to provide resources for those who had none. By early 1927 Anacleto was forced to go into hiding, but remained a prolific writer for the Catholic cause.
Anacleto was soon arrested and framed with a murder that he did not commit. Enduring the tortures of being hung by his thumbs, having his shoulder fractured and his feet slashed with knives, Anacleto did not give up the whereabouts of his bishop nor any other information. Together with his prison companions who were also part of the resistance, Anacleto was brought before the firing squad on 1 April 1927. Valiantly standing, despite the pain, he offered not only forgiveness to the general in command, but also a promise of intercession before the judgement seat of God. He led his companions in the Act of Contrition and then those companions were executed. The soldiers lost their nerve when it came to shooting him, so the general ordered the captain to stab Anacleto with a bayonet. With his last words he continued to proclaim his faith in God and in the impossibility of stamping out God’s good news, ‘I die but God does not die!’. He was a few months shy of his 39th birthday.
On 20 November 2005, Anacleto and his companions were beatified by Pope Benedict XVI. May Blessed Anacleto intercede for all lay leaders whose communities are undergoing persecution.
Blessed (Jose) Anacleto Gonzalez Flores, pray for us.